More On Newark’s So-Called Community Involvement Plan

Last week, I posted Newark’s Outreach Effort Appears To Have Been A Sham, which highlighted how Newark school reform leaders had a plan they were going to push no matter what they learned in their “outreach” effort to residents.

Today, a New Jersey newspaper reported more on the plan, which includes a massive expansion of charter schools. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“In an ideal world, you would want results of the community engagement process to drive the reform proposal, not the other way around,” said Paul Tractenberg, a law professor at Rutgers-Newark who is helping to conduct the community survey, due out in late March. “This report has formed a cloud over how all of this will play out.”

Newark’s Outreach Effort Appears To Have Been A Sham

For the past several months, I have been sharing my skepticism about the extremely expensive (and, in my opinion, useless) effort undertaken in Newark to go door-to-door to ask residents what they think should be done about the schools. It was paid for by part of the $100 million donation by Facebook’s founder.

Today, New Jersey newspapers report that — surprise, surprise — the school district already had a plan in place they were, and are, going to implement. And it doesn’t look pretty. Read: Broken promises: Newark school plan kept many in the dark.

Thanks to Kenneth Libby for the tip.

Is The National Center on Parent, Family and Community Engagement Up-And-Running?

Last June, I wrote a post about The United States Department of Health and Human Services accepting proposals to form a National Center on Parent, Family and Community Engagement.

The Center appears to be up-and-running or, at least, its website is.

Here is how the website describes its purpose:

The National Center on Parent, Family, and Community Engagement will identify, develop and disseminate evidence-based best practices associated with the development of young children and the strengthening of families and communities. The Center will create culturally and linguistically relevant training and tools for implementing comprehensive, systemic, and integrated approaches to parent, family and community engagement in Head Start and Early Head Start.

I’ll Be On “Parents As Partners” Webcast Monday Night

Lorna Costantini, the primary organizer behind the great blog and webcast series “Parents As Partners,” has graciously invited me to be the guest on their webcast this coming Monday.

We’ll be discussing the “parent trigger” and the recent Florida proposal to have teachers “grade” parents.

In addition, I’ll give a preview of two articles I’ve written that will be appearing in April — one for Teacher Magazine on what Star Wars’ Princess Leia can teach us about parent engagement (I kid you not :) ) and another on the differences between parent engagement and parent involvement for ASCD’s Educational Leadership.

Plus, we can talk about any other related issues participants would like to discuss.

Date: Monday February 21, 2011 
Time: 9:00 PM EST (6:00 PM Pacific Time)

Link to Parents as Partners webcast: http://tinyurl.com/ETTpasp
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Miss the show? check back for the recording at www.edtechtalk.com/ParentsasPartners

Parent Trigger Parody

Edtweak, which periodically publishes school reform-related parodies, recently published a piece on the “parent trigger.” Here it is:

Teachers Face California’s Student Trigger Law

Beginning next month, any child in a failing classroom will be able to remove her teacher, simply by collecting signatures from 50% of the class’s students. The law is the brainchild of “Student Revolution,” a new group funded by millionaires but which we are reporting as having arisen from a popular movement.

“For the first time anywhere in America, students have been empowered and entrusted with the legal right to force dramatic change in their
failing classrooms,” said Ben Starr, the group’s leader. “Our opponents issued dire warnings of unintended consequences. But we’ve already tried out the approach in two small districts and we’ve seen an enormous increase in teacher effectiveness. Students’ grades have skyrocketed, so the teachers must be trying harder.

New National Parent Group Launches

A new national parents group launched this week. Here’s an excerpt from an article about it:

Parent advocates from across the country converged on New York City on Monday, February 7 for the first national forum of Parents Across America, a parent-led movement to make parent voices heard in the national debate over education reform – and to promote positive, common-sense solutions that will improve public schools nationwide.

“State education board delays fate of ‘parent trigger’ law until March”

“State education board delays fate of ‘parent trigger’ law until March” is the headline of a Sacramento Bee article describing what happened at today’s California State Board Of Education’s meeting.

In other words, it showed some wisdom.

Here is an excerpt:

However, the fate of the “parent trigger” is undecided as the state board decided to take up the issue at its March meeting to give time for California Department of Education staff to analyze the current regulation and form a stakeholder group to work on a long term solution.

The 2009 Parent Empowerment law allows parents to petition for dramatic changes at struggling schools, including closing the campus, overhauling staff and programs, or converting to an independently run charter school. The law, approved as emergency regulations, is set to expire March 15.

The state board – a majority of which were appointed recently by Gov. Jerry Brown – will decide March 9 whether to extend the emergency regulations. The board will not consider draft regulations submitted by the previous board, instead opting to start from scratch with more input from interest groups.

The L.A. Weekly, which has regularly been running stories in support of the parent trigger law, also published an article on the meeting.  Theirs is headlined Shocker: California Superintendent Tom Torlakson Plans to Re-Write Parent Trigger Law, Education Reformers Stunned.

State Board of Education puts the brakes on parent-trigger law is from the Los Angeles Times.

John Fensterwald also has a useful post about the meeting.

The Best Resources For Learning Why The Parent Trigger Isn’t Good For Parents, Kids Or Schools

As regular readers know, I have very serious concerns about the so-called “parent trigger.” This California law (which may be spreading to other states) allows 51% of parents whose children attend a “low-performing” school ( or parents who will have children attending that school in the future), to sign a petition and have major changes made — closing it down completely, replacing the principal and extending the school plus other changes, replacing the principal and firing 50% of the teachers, or converting it into a charter school.

I thought I’d put together a “The Best…” list of related resources today, especially since the California State Board of Education is reviewing potential regulations this week on how to implement the law.

Here are my choices for The Best Resources For Learning Why The Parent Trigger Isn’t Good For Parents, Kids Or Schools (not in order of preference):

I’m going to start off with my Washington Post piece titled “The ‘Parent Trigger’ doesn’t help schools or parents.”

What’s really wrong with ‘parent trigger’ laws is the title of my newest piece in The Washington Post.

And I’m going to follow it up with another post I wrote headlined If It Quacks Like A Duck — Thoughts On The “Parent Trigger”

Seeking Something Better Than the Trigger by David B. Cohen may be the best piece written so far on the topic.

Amina writes on California’s Trigger law: is a thoughtful piece from Justice Matters.

Strengthen and straighten out state’s parent empowerment process is from the President of the California State PTA.

The Los Angeles Times has a surprisingly good editorial titled A better ‘parent trigger’

State faces a moving target in implementing ‘parent trigger’ law is the title of an article in today’s Los Angeles Times. It offers good information and analysis.

Parent Empowerment or Parent Manipulation? by Martha Infante is a blog post at InterACT, the blog of Accomplished California Teachers.

Emily Alpert, a San Diego reporter on education issues (whose articles I like a lot), has written a good, short article on the parent trigger.

Parent Trigger Supporters Attack PTA, Compare Schools To Batterers is the title of another post I’ve written.

Parent ‘Trigger’ Law Draws Attention, Controversy is the headline of a new article in Education Week. It provides a good overview of what’s going on in California, as well as describing which other states are considering implementing similar laws.

Schwarzenegger’s misleading account of ‘parent trigger’ is the title of a Valerie Strauss piece in The Washington Post. The comments are pretty interesting, too.

I Think These Critiques Of Parent Trigger Laws Are Missing The Point…

Trigger Laws: Does Signing a Petition Give Parents a Voice? is an excellent article in the most recent issue of Rethinking Schools.

The Trouble With the Parent Trigger is by Diane Ravitch.

Parent Trigger R.I.P is a post I wrote about its lack of success.

Additional suggestions are welcome.

You might also want to explore the over 600 other “The Best…” lists I’ve compiled.

Good “Push Back” On My “Quack Like A Duck” Post — And My Response

Sherman Dorn, a Florida professor who always writes thoughtful posts, pushed back on my post, If It Quacks Like A Duck — Thoughts On The “Parent Trigger.” In his response, he writes that my same arguments could be used to oppose letting workers vote for a union through the “card check” process. In that situation, if a majority of workers at a business sign a card saying they want to be represented by a union, then the union automatically becomes recognized.

Here’s the comment I left on his blog (I have also made some minor changes in this version, including adding a link):

Sherman,

I always appreciate a good critique because it pushes my thinking, as your posts often do.

I, too, support card check for labor organizing. There are some very important differences, though, between a union organizing workers in a private company and billionaires funding an effort to privatize a public institution.

One, the reasoning behind the card check is the legitimate concern and fear, shown in thousands of instances over the years, that companies will intimidate workers who are organizing and fire them and often blacklist them so they cannot find similar work elsewhere. Yes, there have been as yet unproved charges that one teacher at the Compton school made one critical comment to one student about his parent’s role in the petition drive. But does anyone seriously think that if teachers disagree with something a parent is doing that they are going to take it out on their student? Or let it affect how they interact with that child’s parent on student-related issues? If, in the extraordinarily rare instance that happens, it is hard to imagine that there would not be swift and serious consequences for the guilty teacher. The child will certainly not be expelled from school and blacklisted from entering others.

Two, unions are funded by member dues and are built and sustained over the long term by them, as are local religious congregations, block clubs and ethnic organizations (groups, by the way, whom are often very supportive of union organizing efforts). That is not the case in billionaire groups that parachute into local communities to start charters who then will then transfer staff to go start new charters elsewhere.

Three, just the argument that a parent trigger petition drive is somehow related to the card check issue can buy-into the dangerous belief that schools are just like businesses and should be treated as such. Public schools are not businesses, public schools should not be run like businesses, and public schools should not primarily be characterized through the lens of business practices (though, there are obviously some positive practices worth incorporating). Going down this kind of road can lead to many other unfortunate comparisons such as schools needing to make more decisions in the name of “efficiency,” as do businesses or that it’s okay for schools — as many charters do already — to discourage students they do not want to serve from attending.

Petition drives organized by charter groups that divide parents from teachers and parents from other parents are not the way to improve our schools. Encouraging schools and parents to emphasize home visits, schools working with families on community problems affecting both them and the school, and face-to-face cooperation are some of the better ways to make that improvement happen.

Larry Ferlazzo

Parent Trigger Updates

Here are some links to useful new pieces on the Parent Trigger:

Amina writes on the California’s Trigger law at Justice Matters

Powerful “Parent” Trigger operators target vulnerable school; attack misfires by Caroline Grannan

The San Jose Mercury News has an editorial in support of the parent trigger. More importantly, there are several good critical comments that follow it, especially from David Cohen.